This week sees another change to our “normal” lives. There’s a need and an attempt to persuade us all to get back to things we used to do, particularly shopping.
In fact, with the news on the economy, then it’s being trumpeted as almost our duty to get shopping.
But not everyone might be in a rush to head to the high street.
So, if you’ve got a product or customer-facing service to sell, what might customers want to hear from you as we go into this next stage?
I’ve got five themes that I think might resonate.
For some, they’ll just be ready to dive straight back in. I suspect that for many, it’s going to take a bit of persuading, like the proverbial tortoise out of hibernation. And it’s going to take more than fluffy words and pictures to get them out their shells.
This is the time to go big on detail.
If you make a product or provide a service, then start at the beginning and show the process. People love a good look behind the scenes, and it means you can show all the parts where hygiene has been stepped up (or where it’s always been excellent).
And don’t just focus on the customer.
You might want to think about showing what you’re doing to keep your people safe. Those businesses that weren’t seen to be very supportive at the beginning of all this are probably going to have their plans come under particular scrutiny.
Though whether it’ll keep people out of somewhere like Wetherspoons remains to be seen.
Things are going to keep on being different. So don’t be vague about what’s happening. I mean, if I stand and stare at this sign then I can just about work about what they want to tell me here. But who wants to work that hard?
Tell them everything: opening times, shopper limits, product limits.
You name it.
If it’s different to how it used to be, then tell them.
And don’t make them hunt it down. Make the message consistent. Don’t have one thing on your website and another thing on Facebook.
Don’t make people work hard to know what’s going on.
We’ve been grateful for all kinds of people in all kinds of ways. People have been grateful for businesses they had almost forgotten existed. Small local food shops, in particular, have been a godsend for many over these weeks. Many local businesses have perhaps pivoted to offer their products directly to the consumer for the first time.
Heck, there are even some that hadn’t been selling online before.
This has really helped people access food that they couldn’t get, or to avoid going anywhere very crowded (and for some, that included all supermarkets regardless of social distancing measures) and perhaps trying new things because they had more time to experiment, or couldn’t default to their usual choices.
So, there’s an opportunity to be grateful to three different groups:
1. Be grateful to the customers who’ve been with you through this
Tell them why it’s made a difference to your business. For example, Original Recipes have been able to donate pots of their Potted Beef to Fareshare who gets it to people in need, through donating one pot for every ten bought on its website or in Morrisons, not to mention people donating through the Open Kitchens initiative. And they keep saying thank you to those who’ve helped.
2. Be grateful to your retailers
If smaller shops have benefitted and we want them to keep benefitting, then keep thanking them. Thank them for how they’ve helped you, as well as what they’re doing for their communities. The spirit of co-operation, of businesses working together to help each other, has been amazing to see and one of the positives.
3. Be grateful to your community
On a really local level, be grateful for your community. Highlight the heroes that have stepped in, from nowhere it almost seems, to organise food parcels or even just a friendly doorstep-distanced chat.
Showing your love of your community is never going to be a bad thing
Local is going to resonate and might mean something new as this goes on. If you read the musings of Feasts & Fables, they talked about it possibly evolving to mean those with a connection between the food they produce and the community they support, rather than just geographical.
That sense of connection might be something people become more open to as a reason to choose a particular business.
If any of you have signed up with Melted Inside, then I know this idea was one of the founder, Candy’s, guiding principles. (Disclosure, Candy is a client of mine). She was really keen to make Melted Inside about supporting businesses that were involved in supporting their communities.
Think we’re all craving a bit of this, or at least a safe version of it. For me, normality will be sitting down somewhere for a good coffee, lingering over something to eat (hell, someone else cooking something to eat and washing up would be amazing).
Browsing in shops.
Not doing the pavement zig zag.
Many of us stopped doing things with our content for many reasons. We were worried about saying the wrong thing. We were worried about being out of step with the mood. Or we didn’t know if we could tell jokes.
Or for many business owners, you were probably just too darned busy trying to work out what your business response was to all of this.
But now is perhaps the time to consider what you want to restart doing, and what you might never do again. You might also keep doing some stuff you’ve been trying, and do some new things.
It’s your version of normal, coming down off the war footing into the new world.
So, if you always did send a newsletter every week, maybe now’s the time to get back to doing it.
If you were always known for the best use of memes on your Twitter feed, start doing it again if you’d stopped.
Or maybe, just do one thing really well. Doesn’t matter what it is, as long as your customers value it.
I don’t think this one is just for where we find ourselves now. I would always be an advocate for being human in your content. For thinking about how you’re feeling, how those around you are feeling. About saying it how it is.
There’s been a lot where it’s ok not to be ok. And you don’t have to pretend that you are, or that the situation is.
It’s also ok to be ok, to talk about normal stuff. My obsession with bread, coffee and occasionally gin, has continued unabated. If what you’re writing about comes from a positive, human place, then I’d say that was a good starting point.
For example, it’s National Picnic Week. It’s okay to talk about your favourite picnic spot. Hell, socially distanced picnics are allowed. It’s ideal stuff to talk about.
But equally, it’s Loneliness Awareness Week this week. The work of the Marmalade Trust and others has real value. Talking about it helps what they do. We know that many people have found the loneliness one of the hardest things about this whole lockdown period.
Empathy doesn’t always have to be bright and cheerful. It just has to be human.
It’s still good to talk
Keeping talking is always a good idea. There are no certain times ahead, no time anytime soon when this will be over. So what do we do?
I love this quote: “You must welcome change as the rule, but not as your ruler.” Denis Waitley
Here’s to ruling the changes by keeping on talking to each other.